Ali Khalil, AFP
Last updated: 10 November, 2011

Dubai readies for take-off of prestigious air show

Dubai gears up for its biennial air show which opens on Sunday with hopes of landing fleets of new aircraft orders after the fair’s last edition was hit by the global financial crisis.

Organisers of the Dubai Airshow said this year’s edition will be the biggest in the history of the 25-year-old show, with a 10 percent increase in size, and that some regional carriers are expected to come up with new orders.

“The overall growth of the show will be about 10 percent,” said Alison Weller, managing director of the show organisers, F&E Aerospace.

Up to 1,000 exhibitors from 50 countries and more than 55,000 trade visitors are expected, according to organisers.

The chairman of Emirates, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, had hinted that the Dubai-owned carrier would be looking to buy new aircraft. The airline which is one of the world’s fastest growing carriers has a fleet of 160 planes and an order book of nearly 200 aircraft.

The latest announcement it made was at Britain’s Farnborough show last year, when it said it ordered 30 Boeing long-range 777 units worth $9.1 billion, boosting its reputation as the world’s most bullish carrier, a month after ordering 32 Airbus A380 superjumbos worth $11.5 billion.

It remains by far the largest single customer of the European manufacturer’s giant airliner with 90 units, of which 15 have already entered service.

Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker had also reportedly spoken of a “multi-billion-dollar aircraft order” at the Dubai Airshow.

The national flag carrier of the energy-rich Gulf state had been expected to place a massive order for 50 Airbus A320 neo-medium-haul jets and five A380 units at the Paris air show last June, but the deal did not materialise.

The fast growing carrier has a fleet of 98 planes, and some 200 aircraft on order, worth over $40 billion, including 60 Boeing 787 Dreamliners and 80 Airbus 350s.

The long-awaited 787 Dreamliner, which made its first commercial flight last month, will be on display at the Dubai Airshow, along with many other commercial and private planes.

Fighter jets, including Rafale, the pride of Dassault Aviation that France is hoping to sell to the United Arab Emirates, will also be on display, as well as the US-made F-16 and F-18 warplanes.

The last edition of Dubai Airshow in 2009 was subdued as the global civil aviation industry was suffering a setback triggered by the global financial crisis.

Although the five-day event then ended with deals worth more than $14 billion, it remained poor compared with the 2007 edition during which manufacturers chalked up orders valued at $155.5 billion, mostly from Gulf operators.

The Middle East aviation industry had weathered the global crisis better than the sector in other regions, as it continued to register growth.

A number of Gulf cities are pouring billions of dollars into vast airport projects as they vie to become regional hubs for transit travel between the West and Asia and Australia.

But Dubai is by far topping the league with its Middle East’s busiest airport that ranked world’s 13th last year after handling over 47 million passengers in 2010.

In terms of international passenger traffic, Dubai claimed in May the fourth rank after London’s Heathrow which handled 61.08 million international passengers, Charles de Gaulle in Paris, with 53.28 million and Hong Kong, with 50.23 million.

Dubai Airports said it believed that Dubai International would become the world’s busiest hub for international passenger traffic in 2015, when passenger handling is expected to exceed 75 million.